I was at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle, where I got to participate in the CST Retreat followed by the three-day conference. As almost every attendee agreed, this was one of the best conferences I’ve attended so far. Kudos to Bryan Stallings and the entire team at the Scrum Alliance for putting together this show.
In this post, I want to focus on my experience of becoming a CST (Certified Scrum Trainer).
The CST Interview Process
After contemplating becoming a CST for years, I eventually applied and was rather surprised by the process — the CST certification process happened two days before the retreat.
The CST application process is one of the widely debated topics in the Scrum world. But in all fairness, I felt that the process I saw was a fair one and something I am proud to have participated in. The theme of the CST approval process was “Raising the Bar”. I had a fairly intensive application process that got reasonable follow-up by Scrum Alliance. Although at times I felt I I didn’t know where the application went, when I sent an email to the Alliance there was a quick response.
A few days before the interview, I got an email from the Scrum Alliance that listed a series of topics that we may be asked to speak about. One that was of particular interest to me was “Scrum and Infrastructure”. My rule was if I wasn’t already prepared for all the topics, then I should not even have qualified. Still I spent a day or so, thinking about these topics and writing down key points that I would address if that topic was chosen.
The panel consisted of well-known coaches and others whom I highly respect and some I had never met before. Even the CST review committee admitted they were very tense as they were not very clear how exactly they would proceed. They had done their homework well and were prepared to scrutinize us. Some of the reviewers recused themselves, since they knew me too well. On the day of the interview, I felt the way I did when I went for my MBA selection interview at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Business in 2003. I am not sure why, but that is how I felt.
First session: An informal chat with a group of CSTs
We sat down and I was asked a series of questions. This session was meant to break the ice. Many in this panel had read my application, my blog, etc., but had not met me. I did not even know many of these CSTs. I think this part put me a bit at ease. One particular question I remember was “ What makes you a different type of Scrum Trainer?”.
Second Session: Presentation
I left for a walk with another CST applicant to see Pike Place Market. Whenever I’m in Seattle and visit the Market it always puts me in a good mood — may be it’s because I like seafood. I came back post-lunch (with what I would describe as a strong dose of Starbucks coffee) to the afternoon presentatation. I waited out for my name to be called, and I felt like I was walking into completely unknown territory.
I was given a topic, and the CSTs were listening to me talk and try various techniques to keep the group interested. The time flew by really quickly. I remember coming out of it tired and still tense.
Evening came and it was time for the decision. There was an odd silence in that room. Many applicants were rejected; only two of us got through. Like any other Scrum session, there was a retrospective done to see how this process can be improved.
I am quite aware that there are ways that things can always be improved and I am positive that the Scrum Alliance is doing all the right things to make the experience a great one for all future CST candidates.
I was very excited to attend my first Scrum Gathering in Seattle. I wore two hats: Marketing Communications Manager for SolutionsIQ, the platinum sponsor of the event, and Official Tweeter (if there is such a title) for the Scrum Alliance. Bryan Stallings, my colleague at SolutionsIQ, was the conference chair for this fun and educational conference. It was a great experience!
From the moment I entered the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle on the first day, long before the opening keynote, there was Agile in the air – people were happy to be there and they quickly began introducing themselves to one another and talking about their backgrounds. As more participants arrived, the buzz increased dramatically and everyone was really looking forward to the beginning of the day’s events.
Once the Gathering was underway, I was more and more impressed with everyone’s willingness to participate, learn, share stories about how they implement Scrum at their companies (or not), and help each other solve problems – it was very inspiring! I attended all three keynotes and as many sessions on Day 1and Day 2 as I could, tweeting about the presentations and about the very engaging Un-Conference Open Space meetups on Day 3.
There was a special Twitter hashtag for the Gathering, #sgsea, and the Twitter-savvy attendees were constantly commenting and sharing their thoughts, which I followed with great interest. The tweets ranged from sharing speakers’ quotes to whether they agreed/disagreed with the speakers to comments about what they liked/disliked about the conference. (Twitter apparently doesn’t keep old tweets anymore, or else you’d be able to read all of them.) By a wide margin, the #sgsea Tweeters were very happy they attended, and I saw nothing but praise for how the conference was executed (lineup of speakers, food, and lots of time between sessions to talk to one another, among other things).
I could easily write a long article about the fantastic Open Space on Day 3 – it was amazing to see how passionate everyone was about creating sessions around Agile/Scrum topics and how eager participants were to listen, share information, and delve more deeply into the situations they encounter on a daily basis. There had been some trepidation before the day began – during the first two days of the Gathering, I overheard quite a few people discussing the upcoming Open Space sessions: “What are they?” “Sounds weird, there are no scheduled sessions, what’s that all about?” “I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it, but I’ll go anyway to see what happens.” As it turns out, there were raves about the Open Space on Twitter, with countless tweets indicating that it was the best day of the conference.
All in all, Scrum Gathering Seattle was a huge success, both as a conference and as a topic of Twitter conversation. I lost count of the number of Gathering-related tweets – there was a seemingly endless stream. The unanimous verdict was that the Gathering was the best conference participants had ever attended. Be sure to follow the Scrum Alliance on Twitter to learn about all upcoming events!
The weather was Seattle-like — unpredictable, not-hot and not-cold — but that didn’t seem to affect the nearly three hundred people who gathered in uptown Seattle last week for the latest Scrum Global Gathering.
I remember my first Gathering, back in 2006 and also in the Pacific Northwest, as small, intense, and consuming. I listened to, ran into, met, ate, and drank with an astonishing variety of people. Each of them was filled with energy, ideas, passion, openness, and fun, regardless of whether they were new-to-Scrum or seasoned CSTs. I wanted to be a part of a community like that.
Five years later, I found SGSEA 2011 to be that kind of experience again. And that was delightful to discover. It’s too bad that Twitter doesn’t save tweets for long, because if you saw the fire hose of commentary that was accessible through the conference hashtag #sgsea, you’d have read heartfelt and insightful reactions to keynotes and presentations, additions and discussions on ideas and sessions, and you’d maybe even feel like you were there.
So, what was it like? Two days of scheduled talks, winnowed from the over 100 that were submitted, covered topics ranging from supporting product owners to the new PMI Agile certificate, architecture, and story maps. And the half-day Open Space/Un-conference on Wednesday included sessions entitled “I Hate Scrum!” and “How to Remove Yourself as an Impediment” running alongside talks on coaching and experience reports from organizations who’ve tried to improve their results. A new and popular feature was the “Scrum to Go” impromptu coaching sessions led by Roger Brown and staffed by volunteers from the CSC and coaching community.
Steve Denning’s keynote and session got people talking in the halls and on Twitter, and Joe Justice finished off the three days retelling his experiences using Agile, Lean, Scrum, XP, and everything else under the sun to build a 100 MPG road car.
We’re sorry to have missed you in Seattle. Maybe we’ll catch up in London or sometime soon!
My name is Bryan Stallings. That’s me with the face paint. I live and work in and around beautiful Seattle, Washington, the destination city for the upcoming Scrum Gathering. The dates are coming up fast, so be sure to circle May 16-18, 2011 on your calendar. The CST/CSC Retreat will be held on May 15th.
During the past seven weeks I’ve learned a lot in my role as event chair. They let me select the hotel, how cool is that? I can’t imagine a more ideal location than the Grand Hyatt Seattle. We’ll be right in the heart of downtown, mere blocks from everything.
Take a moment to reflect on the theme for the Gathering: “Scrum Better – Move the Needle.” That should mean something to every practitioner of Scrum. Let’s get together for this conference to improve our knowledge, capability, and commitment. We’ll consider how we can “Scrum Better,” and learn new methods to help us “Move the Needle” as we perform our roles as practitioners, managers, coaches, and trainers.
I’m excited about the Gathering! We have some great keynote speakers who will participate, and I invite you to get involved by submitting a proposal to speak at this event. Giving a presentation at the Scrum Gathering is a great opportunity to share your knowledge, experience, and passion for Scrum.
What’s the Schedule?
We will be accepting proposals through Monday, March 14, 2011. We understand that this is a tight deadline but, fortunately, the submission process isn’t complicated or lengthy.
What Are We Interested In?
In order to create a Scrum Gathering that promotes space for in-depth discussion as well as a breadth of great ideas and collaborations, we’ve organized the program into a series of tracks. The track names may seem funny to you at first, but they are all inspired by cooking. Kind of odd, huh? Maybe, but, there’s a story behind it. I like to cook and I like good food — Seattle is a good city for that. As we get closer to the Gathering, I’ll tell you more about the cooking-inspired program and what it has to do with the following tracks:
Mise en Place (“Everything in Place”): Getting the Scrum basics in place
A chef always gets ready to cook by assembling the key ingredients prepared and in place. Sessions in this track will be helpful to many of the attendees that are new(ish) to Scrum and cover key essentials that a novice should know. Sessions like, “Five Essential Characteristics of a Product Backlog” belong here.
Get Cooking: Useful recipes for improved success with Scrum
Do you have favorite recipes you always rely on because they almost never fail? For the advanced-beginner to the proficient, we’re looking for tips, tutorials, and good practices. Share what you know about your favorite approaches and techniques. Sessions like, “Sure-Fire Strategies for Building a Better Product Owner” belong here.
Turn Up the Heat: Scrum affects things beyond teams and software
Scrum can be a catalyst that accelerates learning and delivery, but it can also make things a little warm as change occurs. What else happens when Scrum enters the scene? Our roles evolve, we are managed differently, and a whole lot more. Change is pervasive where Scrum finds a home. Sessions like, “How Scrum Resulted in a Revamp the HR Review Process” should find their way here.
Utensils & Gadgets: Helping Scrum teams to shape, form, and finish
Like a team of skilled chefs, a successful Scrum teams finds a few essential “utensils” and “gadgets” that they rely on to shape their success and finish their work well. This track is focused on these types of tools, whether they be complex software solutions, or simple paper and pencil-based techniques. Sessions like, “How Did We Survive Before Post It’s?” or “Mocks and Stubs Can Be Your Friends!” are a good fit for this section.
Knife Skills: Hacks, tinkering, and experimenting
In the kitchen, a trained chef knows how to substitute one available ingredient for something that’s missing or won’t work. In that same vein, hacks force the available material into doing what you need or want. They are clever, and they may break the rules. Some hacks are illegal, and some just make you proud and embarrassed that it worked. Sometimes a hack is the only way to go. Sessions of this nature should be submitted here (unless you hack the database).
Seasonings: Methods for coaching, training, and influencing others
Even when all the key ingredients are there, success isn’t always forthcoming without a sprinkle of a little something extra. These unique ingredients flavor the entire dish and combine in ways that are more powerful than when used alone. The ability to influence through facilitation, coaching, training, and so on are master seasonings because of the power of their influence. How do you find success through a deft and delicate touch? A session like,“This is the Best Training Technique Ever” works well here.
“Big Cheese” Course: Leading organizations that leverage Scrum to deliver value
Leadership continues to have increasing involvement as companies scale their use of Scrum. The sessions in this track provide an opportunity for leaders who have already passed this way before to share those insights with others. Sessions such as, “How Scrum + My Division Beat the Competition” should be submitted here.
What are the Sessions’ Specifics?
Tracks will run in parallel throughout the first two days of the conference. Sessions will be 90 minutes in length.
Perhaps you’ll prepare a Case Study or Experience Report and help your audience identify the key learning points while you tell what happened, or moderate a panel discussion among experienced practitioners Maybe you’ll deliver a tutorial that provides participants with practical knowledge they can use right away, facilitate a Workshop where conference attendees learn from each other, or deliver a compelling talk from cutting edge materials. Do you have other creative and compelling ideas? Please share them with us in your submission.
How Do I Submit a Proposal?
The Scrum Alliance doesn’t yet have its own system for this so we’ve set up a simple submission page that will work. You won’t have a login to access to amend your submission later, so remember to print the submission before you submit it.
I look forward to your attendance and involvement in this Scrum Gathering, and don’t forget to submit a proposal before the March 14th deadline. Feel free to contact me with any questions!